Police and Thievesby Roger Young / 14.09.2009
On Saturday night at the Willowvale, during their set, one of Captain Stu holds up a little glass jar and announces, “This is the blood clot they removed from my ass this morning” – and he’s not kidding. In a weekend that included all the rock n roll stuff like biker bars, gay bars, lost guitars, exploding tyres and ska punks punching cops who tried to shut the party down it was hard to separate the music from the entertainment.
Captain Stu play a sort of ska reggae punk laced with trombone and tenor sax, and while they play with the genre, mixing it with others, they stay away from out and out experimentation. You cannot deny that what Captain Stu do, they do well. Enthusiastic, intelligent, smilling, sing-along ska always gets the party rocking. If Captain Stu are lacking on any level it’s that they make what they do look too easy; something about this translates into an occasional lack in the material, a missing element or layer that fails to lift them above being a merely excellent rocking ska band. On the new album that element is in place a lot more than was evident live. The lyrics seem more prominent, and maybe the only reason it seemed lacking at both Saturday and Sunday’s gig was because they toured Durban with one member less than they recorded the album with.
The young punk crowd are going wild at Thunder Road, flinging themselves around and foot stomping away to the driving brass section when the owner has to ask them to stop. It is a Sunday in Durban and there are noise complaints, even though it is still early. Stu play through and by the time the set is over Thunder Road is surrounded by flashing blue lights and fifty drunk kids in mid party are milling around, wondering what to do. Matt from The Car Boot Vendors whips out his acoustic and starts to play, leading the crowd in a clap-along. The police muffle the guitar but the crowd continues to sing. Then the cops are grabbing kids and trying to get them in the car. Loopy from Fruit n Veg is having none of it, screaming “Get your hands off my family!” She storms the cops and tries to get her friend back; the crowd breaks and overwhelm the police in a wave, freeing the friends. The cops retreat and call for back up. Never mess with a ska crowd mid gig, it seems. Things are tense on the street and as more cop cars start pulling up, everyone scatters and heads up the road. If at nine o clock on a Sunday night people can get arrested for singing in the street, how are soccer fans next year going to handle the post game euphoria stomping that seems a logical result of this mentality?
You cannot underestimate the importance of a band like Captain Stu. They have that looseness that comes with being tight, they emanate waves of love from the stage and they get the crowd riled up into jumping harmony. If, for whatever reason, some of their songs came across a little similar live, they more than make up for that with energy and their general feel good vibe. Solid, dependable, hard partying music like this is enough to restore anyone’s faith in live music.